Early on in my pregnancy, I decided that I would like to try to exclusively breastfeed my baby. I don’t know if I ever could have been prepared for how emotional breastfeeding would be. Nobody could have possibly warned me. When other moms ask me about breastfeeding I often joke that I will never tell my daughter not to cry over spilled milk, because I certainly have.
At six months my son bit me while I was trying to nurse him on a plane, and I nearly threw him onto my husband’s lap and said, “That’s it, I am done.” I went exclusively to pumping and supplemented with formula. To this day, nearly three years later, I still feel angry and betrayed by my body.
I really want all new moms to know that for some breastfeeding comes naturally. For others it is the most difficult, frustrating, and demoralizing experience in their lives. That coupled with sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, and life in general, and you can find yourself in an awful place emotionally, mentally, and physically…
I’ve come across the advice “If mom isn’t happy, then do something differently,” but that’s not all that helpful in the long-run. I’ve found a few gentle weaning tips online, but the prospect of a few more months of diligence and consistency seems daunting and exhausting. And my friends aren’t much help, either. While they’re in various stages of breastfeeding, we’re all trying to figure out when it’s right to stop breastfeeding and how to go about doing it.
I am mourning what I thought would happen, how I thought things would work. I am finally accepting our new relationship, and trying to not feel guilty about it. It’s ok that my baby has formula, and I know breastmilk is best, but I’m doing my very best too. She is a happy, beautiful, healthy baby. I get to cuddle and snuggle her all day since I’m on maternity leave, and we have a wonderful relationship. I miss the closeness that nursing brought, but I’m glad she’s comfortable, and fed.
Of all the things people felt like giving advice on while I was pregnant, no one ever told me that breastfeeding might be hard. One person warned me that sometimes it just doesn’t work, but I didn’t really get it. Why would it just not work?
I barely pump anymore, although I can still feed my baby about an ounce of breast milk from one breast every other feeding or so. I’ve given up on my right breast — she’s such an underachiever. I’ll keep taking the prescriptions and supplements and keep hoping that I’m giving my baby girl SOME antibodies and nutrients, but for the most part, my child is fed, and yes nourished, by formula.
I hear my husband coming up the stairs with our four-day-old baby. I hide my head under the duvet and dread their entry to the room, knowing it means I’ll have to feed him. Exhausted and sore from the birth, I wish the baby would disappear for a few hours so I could have my old life back.
In my naive pre-baby days, I thought toddler-nursing was for hippie weirdos. “If they can ask for it, they’re too old for it!” I would exclaim in my most judgmental tone. This was back in the day when I also thought breastfeeding was simple and came naturally to all moms. Ha!